A big concern for New York Giants fans was the lack of investment into the offensive line during the 2021 NFL Draft, specifically the interior. New York traded back twice, picked up extra capital for the 2022 draft (10 selections), and traded up once to draft UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson.
The Giants had to add skilled position players to bolster their roster this season, so Daniel Jones can have a shot to maximize his potential. Adding Kenny Golladay, John Ross, Kyle Rudolph while drafting Kadarius Toney, and getting a healthy Saquon Barkley back will allow Jones to live up to the sixth overall selection.
Pro Football Focus had the Giants as the second-lowest graded pass blocking line in 2020. Sure, the youth on the line may have led to the struggles, but it’s no certainty that those struggles won’t persist into next season.
New York released Kevin Zeitler, its most consistent offensive lineman, to create cap space. The Giants added veteran Zach Fulton to compete with Will Hernandez and Shane Lemieux for the guard positions inside tackle Matt Peart and Andrew Thomas, with Nick Gates at center for the second year in a row.
The fact that Joe Judge now, hopefully, has an offensive line coach that he can work with should be an upgrade. There was instability with the Giants coaching staff last season and Marc Colombo, the former Giants offensive line coach, was fired and replaced by Dave DeGuglielmo.
Rob Sale, a trusted coach by Joe Judge and not just a Jason Garrett carryover, will now assume duties as the offensive line coach. The Giants also brought back Pat Flaherty, who has spent the last couple of seasons at Penn State. That should lead to a more stable situation and allow the coaches to focus on getting the most out of these young players.
However, if injuries happen or some of these players fail to take that jump, the Giants’ 2021 season will be in jeopardy. Jones cannot be running for his life every time he hits his back foot. To add depth, New York may look to add more veterans to the interior offensive line
New York carried eight offensive linemen into Week 1 last season. Right now, the eight would be Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Nate Solder, Shane Lemieux, Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, Zach Fulton, and Jonotthan Harrison. They also have an undrafted second-year player in Kyle Murphy, former Chiefs backup offensive tackle Jackson Barton, Chad Slade, Kenny Wiggins, and two undrafted rookies so far (center Brett Heggie and tackle Jake Barton). If the Giants are uncomfortable with the interior offensive line, here are some other names to possibly look at who are currently free agents.
G Trai Turner
Turner was selected by Dave Gettleman in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft He signed a four-year, $45 million extension with the Panthers back in 2017. He has good tape in his past, but has seemed to not stick on rosters recently; the Panthers traded him to the Chargers last offseason, and then he was released by Los Angeles this offseason, after starting nine games at right guard.
His Pro Football Focus grades were not good in 2020. Turner is still only 28 years old and could have good football ahead of him in the right situation. He may have played himself into a one-year, prove-it deal.. If that’s the case, and the Giants could make the money work, then it wouldn’t be a terrible option for a team that should have insight into Turner’s character on and off the field, provided that the insight is positive.
OC Austin Reiter
Reiter has 2,657 career snaps and has started for the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs while being a Super Bowl-winning starting center in 2019. He’s 30 and coming off a solid season with Kansas City. He is 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, and played the majority of his NFL snaps at center. The Chiefs invested heavily into their offensive line this offseason, and that left Reiter as the man out.
In 739 snaps of pass blocking, he only allowed 11 pressures and 0 sacks. It seems like, if the Giants went in this direction, Reiter would be the starting center, which I don’t believe is the problem with this offensive line. Nick Gates exceeded my expectations inside last season.
Reiter had much better PFF grades than Gates; Reiter played three more games than Gates and allowed 5 fewer pressures. An option could be discussed that would put Reiter at center and have Gates compete with Lemieux and Hernandez. I, for one, think everything should be explored, but ultimately I’m not a huge fan of shifting Gates to guard after he played solidly at center.
OG Chance Warmack
Warmack is 6-2, 323 pounds. He was the 10th selection in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. He had a solid start to his career and was a good enough run blocker, but struggled with pass protection earlier in his career. General manager Ruston Webster selected him and ended up losing his job two years later. When it was time for Warmack’s contract to be discussed, Jon Robinson was at the helm, and Warmack was not retained by the Titans. Warmack couldn’t live up to the top ten selection.
However, Warmack went to the University of Alabama from 2009-2013; Judge was at Alabama from 2009-2011. I don’t believe a 29-year-old Warmack would be an upgrade from Shane Lemieux or Will Hernandez, but there is pedigree and familiarity here with this coaching staff.
OG Kelechi Osemele
Osemele suffered a devastating, dual knee injury that forced him to IR last season. Tearing two tendons in each knee is just terrible and adding Osemele would be contingent on his health. Nevertheless, Osemele was one of the best interior offensive linemen when he was with the Ravens and the Raiders.
He ended up joining the Jets and it was a fiasco; Osemele publicly criticized the Jets coaching and medical staff over a shoulder injury that the Jets didn’t believe required surgery. Osemele elected to have the surgery and then left for the Chiefs after his release. He started five games and played well before he was injured.
He’s now rehabbing two serious knee injuries and is a 31-year-old free agent who is 6-5, 330 pounds. A lot needs to go right for Osemele to effectively make it back onto the field in 2021. The Chiefs added talent to their offensive line unit, so Osemele, if interested, may be looking for a new home.
G Nick Easton
Easton is a 28-year-old Harvard graduate who was undrafted in 2015. He has spent time with three recently successful NFL franchises - the Ravens, the Vikings, and the Saints. Although he never played with Baltimore, he did find the field with the latter two. The 6-3, 303-pound, Easton has played 2,138 career snaps and 298 of them were in 2020 for the Saints. Easton shouldn’t garner anything more than the veteran minimum at this point, especially since he struggled a bit in 2020. He does, however, have significant snaps playing both guard spots and has only allowed two sacks out of 1,239 pass-blocking reps. The Giants have added a player similar to some of these names, but it’s no certainty that Fulton’s a better option. If some of these players can be had on the cheap, then competition should be embraced.